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Children’s Authority in force

By Marlene Augustine Thursday, May 21 2015

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CHILD REPORT: Stephanie Daly SC, chairman of the Board of Management of the Children's Authority, receives a report from Minister of Gender, Youth and...
CHILD REPORT: Stephanie Daly SC, chairman of the Board of Management of the Children's Authority, receives a report from Minister of Gender, Youth and...

Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago can feel confident that there is now a dedicated agency which will act as the guardian of the children of this country, says Minister of Gender Youth and Child Development, Clifton De Coteau.

The Children’s Authority yesterday held a conference at the Hyatt Regency, Dock Road, Port-of-Spain.

De Coteau indicated that the Children’s Authority will both be responsive and proactive to the needs of children.

“The public can be assured that there will be a mutual relationship between the Children’s Authority and its clientele, as well as the rest of the society. This will ensure a high level of quality service by the Authority,” the minister said.

He noted that on May 18, 2015, was a historic day for the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the children of the nation.

“The president of Trinidad and Tobago on that day proclaimed the package of the children’s legislation heralding a new child protection system, which will be managed by the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago under the Chairmanship of Stephanie Daly, Senior Counsel,” the minister said.

He mentioned that the new children’s protection system will be fulfilling the needs of the children in need of protection in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

De Coteau said the Authority will be focusing on children and their families, “Family re-integration is the overarching philosophy of the Authority and accords with the government’s commitment to family and family life. The principle that a child is best placed with a family will be facilitated through adoption and foster care both of which are now the responsibilities of the Authority.”

However, the minister indicated that the Authority will first focus on the re-integration with the child’s own family and only where it is not possible, will adoption or foster care become options.

Director of the Children’s Authority Sharifa Ali-Abdullah said there has been a trend of an increase in crimes against children in this country, over the last year.

“We would have seen in 2014 massive reports. Over the trend which has been on the increase when we compare that percentage over the total population of children in Trinidad and Tobago which are 330,100 it represents less than one percent. Therefore, our problems are not as big sometimes as they seem,” Ali-Abdullah said.

However, she revealed that there is a close correlation between reports of crimes against children and vacation periods, when perpetrators have both access an opportunity to children. “I think that it is an important point when we compare ourselves to countries like India and China and we look at the massive kinds of populations’ problems, I think we need to reflect on our issues and look at them in a relative sense. We are bless and fortunate to have the resources in this country.”

She went on to say that through checks from the crime and problem analysis from the police service, reports are down for this year.

“For the first quarter we have had fewer reports, this does not mean we have few children being abused, these statistics are only on reported cases which represent just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

Ali-Abdullah mentioned that they noticed a very disturbing trend of sexual crime’s accounting for most of the crimes committed against children.

“When we collected the data to see where the abuse and negligence of children where committed most in TT, it is across the country but in particular, concerns were in the Eastern section of the country, from the top of Toco down to Moruga. We have seen huge increases, more than 100 percent increases and in Tobago as well,” she said.

She said that the Authority will deal and work with children who commit criminal acts. “The age of criminal responsibility is seven and that has not changed. We have been asking for it to be raised to perhaps12 years which is really most countries have moved it to. Therefore that child who has conflict with the law will be considered. The new process allows the Authority to intervene and access that child,” she said.

Ali-Abdullah mentioned that all children have a right to be properly nurtured, and to be exposed to things that will help them to develop their full potential.

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